What a difference a year makes.
For the Pikes Peak Blues Community, a nonprofit incubator project of the Business of Art Center in Manitou Springs, it's taken 12 months of arduous planning, promotion and ingenuity to transform a musical community lacking direction into one of the arts scene's most vibrant assets.
"This region has a very dynamic blues audience, but a year ago, it was obvious that we needed to do something to bring back the excitement and community involvement that are so important to the blues tradition," says Amy Javaherian, who along with Carrie Goodman, co-founded the PPBC last May.
On Friday, May 21, the PPBC will celebrate its first Birthday Bash at the Business of Art Center's Venue 515, with a night of live music, including performances by the Blue Bullies, That Band and Metro Blues. The evening's celebration, which will also include swing dancing lessons and a barbecue dinner, is intended to immerse community members and blues fans alike in the music's unique, life-affirming energy.
"Blues music really is a celebration of life," said Goodman. "It elevates the spirit and helps people discover themselves."
Founded with the intent of enhancing the "vitality of blues and American roots music by supporting live performance and education," the PPBC stresses both the educational and entertainment aspects of music. Last November, in collaboration with the Experience Music project, the PPBC produced an informational booklet about the blues and distributed it to local schools, while also encouraging students to participate in the "Next Generation" lyric writing contest.
Later this year, the PPBC hopes to work with FutureSelf, the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club to start its Blues Lab program, a weekly after-school program for at-risk students intended to teach music and life skills side by side.
"In order to make a music scene thrive, you need to get the youth involved," said Javaherian. "Everything I've learned in my lifetime has come together through the blues community, and so it's very important for us to give something back."
After receiving an outpouring of support, donations, and interest from the public as a result of last year's 12-week summer concert series, the PPBC hopes to make 2004 an even bigger year. The organization will present a 13-week concert series at Acacia Park -- in addition to featuring visiting artists throughout the year and facilitating music workshops on a variety of instruments. With nearly 150 members, and a mailing list of 1,500 people, the PPBC is growing rapidly, and its founders are determined to make the most of their opportunity to educate the public about the blues while simultaneously providing great music.
"Our organization is about more than bringing in the top blues performers," said Goodman. "It's about building a sense of community and fostering growth through music education."
"We're only started," added Javaherian. "As we keep growing, we hope to do bigger and better things."
-- Joe Kuzma
capsule Pike Peak Blues Community 1st Birthday Bash
Friday, May 21, 7 p.m. to midnight
Business of Art Center, Venue 515, 515 Manitou Ave
Free (Donations appreciated)
Call 635-1536 685-1861 ext. 42 or visit www.pikespeakblues.org